I left you last week as I was preparing to fly off to Swedish Lapland for a tourism conference, some dog sledding and ice fishing. Arriving at Manchester I was told I couldn't take a four piece ten weight rod on board as hand luggage, though my walking stick which could be used as a weapon could be taken on board.

What a crazy situation. I can fly to the Middle East, United States, Canada and South America with five or six rods as hand luggage, but I cannot take a single rod weighing a few ounces and approximately twenty nine inches in length to Sweden. I had to leave the rod in the airport office until I returned back to Manchester. Airport staff must realise we anglers have paid a lot of money for our travel rods so we can arrive at our destination with the tools of our trade and common-sense should prevail.

Leaving Manchester at 10-0 am I arrived in Umea at 15-45 where I was met by Greger Johnsson then taken to my hotel in the city centre. Snow covered the roads and was piled high on the side, but the traffic moved freely, while the people went about their business as normal. Snow wasn't a problem in Swedish Lapland. After checking in at the hotel I took the lift to my sixth floor room. Looking out the window I could see the river Umelven was frozen over from bank to bank. After coffee I went for walk around town before going off to dinner and a meeting with a group of local businessmen. The following morning it was difficult to see across the river as a blizzard raged outside. As I sat having breakfast I could see cars, busses and lorries moving quite easily, but I didn't think I would be going dog sledding, as to reach Aurora Borealis Adventures location meant a drive of some sixty kilometres into the countryside. I expected Greger when he turned up to say, "Martin the trip's off". It was a very surprised Martin who, when he asked, "What are we doing today" was told "We are going dog sledding" Finishing breakfast I headed off to my room, after getting dressed up in winter clothing I headed off to the car park. I was most surprised to see a standard family type of car, not a four wheel Jeep type of vehicle, then off we drove into the blizzard.

Arriving at Aurora Borealis Adventures near the town of Lycksele I was given some extra clothing then taken to meet my team of huskies which were barking madly as they waited to see who would be the chosen ones; these dogs just love running many kilometres pulling a sled. Donald uses both Siberian and Alaskan Huskies. The Alaskans are not a pure breed but it's the most common dog in the world when it comes to pulling a sled. The first Alaskans were a breed between Alaskan Malamute and Irish Setter, the man who made this breed was an Athabaska Indian, named John Allen. Donald trains his dogs 9-10 months of the year and they will run some 2,000 km during one season. 600 km on the autumn training and 1400 on snow. A snow sledding trip can be as long as 75 km with speeds as high as 35 kph, with an average speed of around 20 kph. The season starts in December ending in mid-April.

My first experience of dog sledding was during the winter of 2001, it was one of the best adventurous things I have done. On my first occasion the weather was cold and sunny. Today it was blowing a blizzard, so eat your heart out Jack London! The dogs were soon roped up, reindeer skins put on the sled along with the anchor. When ever you stop the anchor must be put down or you could be left behind in the wilderness as the dogs carry on without you. After checking all was in order, to the shout of "mush mush" it was off across the virgin white snow. With all the rivers streams and lakes frozen we had no obstructions and were able to go anywhere. It was great fun to sled along forest tracks with the wind howling through the trees. As darkness enveloped us we made our way back to the kennels, it was time to feed the dogs then bed them down for the night.

It was now time to go off and check the lines for burbot. This time it was Stig's modern sled, the Snowmobile that we used. We quickly covered the kilometres to where Stig had set the lines on the frozen river Vindellven near his house. After shovelling away the snow and ice at each spot we checked the lines. Nothing was caught but one line had the bait bitten off by a pike. Thankfully on this occasion we didn't have to rely on what we caught for survival. After rebaiting the lines we headed off to a cabin in the forest where Donald had cooked dinner. It was snug and warm with a big fire burning brightly in the middle of the room.

After a few drinks and a good dinner it was back in the car then onto the snow covered road for the long drive back to Umea. Despite all the snow we were able to drive at speeds of around fifty mph without any problem. I was certainly impressed with the quality of driving by the Swedish drivers on snow covered roads, it was excellent. Back at the Plaza hotel I gave one of the waiters some good Yorkshire Gold tea bags then asked him to make a large pot of tea using boiling water, some minutes later the tea arrived along with a jug of milk and two tea cups for myself and a Zdenek Czech travel agent. I am certain the tea tasted better than cold ale.

If you're interested in a new experience such as ice fishing and dog sledding why not join Aurora Borealis Adventures on a mushing expedition to Swedish Lapland. Each dogsledding trip with Aurora Borealis Adventures is a scenic, warm ride on a modern sled. The trails are well-maintained and the scenery stunning. You can spend the night in warm, cosy log cabins watching the northern lights dance across the sky. It's certainly great fun spending days mushing your own dog team. On all the tours you will find professional guides with many years experience of dog mushing who are always alert, willing and eager to point out points of interest and wildlife: reindeer, moose, eagles, grouse, deer and fox. The ice fishing with tiny ten to twelve inch rods and minute lures is enjoyed by thousands of Swedish anglers. For me the most exciting thing in ice fishing is seeing the fish appear from under the ice to take the lure. For further information E-mail Donald Aurora Borealis Adventures

The next day I attended a Tourism conference in the town of Robertsfors where I explained how important it was to make sure that the rivers, lakes and stream are pollution free, they must also ensure most of the fish are released, only keeping a small pike for the table. We have seen what happened to the quality of the pike fishing in Ireland when the German anglers arrived and killed all the pike they caught, the pike fishing quickly declined.

Swedish Lapland certainly has some great fishing, if you're looking to catch a five pound grayling, then this area is the place to do it. Salmon, sea and brown trout are all available for the price of a licence costing only a few pounds. It's certainly excellent value for money. Big perch can be taken on flies, spinners and plugs and in some areas there are big roach. Take a mix of top quality fishing, friendly people and beautiful countryside, then you have the recipe for a great adventure lasting a week, perhaps a month. I arrived back home on Sunday evening after a few pleasant days to see gritters at work. There was no frost warning, no snow, it was raining and quite mild. So why did we have all this rubbish spread on our roads to pollute our water courses, damage our cars and increase our taxes? I have written to Lancashire County Council for an answer but I won't hold my breath on this subject.

On Monday it rained and rained, the garden looked more like a salt marsh than an English country garden. Around lunch time I travelled into town passing over the river Ribble, the gauge had a reading of five feet. On my way home it had risen another eighteen inches to six and a half feet. Back home as I sat answering letters and E-mail's the rain hammered down. About three o'clock in the afternoon the rain stopped giving me a chance to sort out some worms for fishing the next day. Filling the bird feeders I noticed the supplies were getting low and ordered another fifty kilo of sunflower hearts and 25 kilo of peanuts. After tea I spent some time tying up some popping frogs on size 3/0 hooks for some friends in Sweden, and with a trip booked for the Bahamas in April I also tied up some big barracuda poppers. After jotting down some fly tying materials I needed, it was time to sit back and watch the BBC TV News at Ten, then it was off to bed. Hopefully I would hear England win the final one day cricket match against New Zealand.

Tuesday morning the weather was really horrid; many rivers countrywide were in flood condition, my local rivers the Ribble, Aire, Hodder and Calder were bank high. In many areas the rivers had flooded into the fields and over several roads. Sections of motorway were shut down due to gale force winds. The conditions reminded me of my days in Mexico when I was caught up in hurricane. The dustbins containing my bird seed and nuts were blown over, a section of fencing was ripped out during the night. This had to be repaired before I could go out and attempt to catch a fish. Despite the conditions I felt there were one or two swims on the Ribble where I could probably catch a chub. Sadly England lost the one day series against New Zealand. What amazed me this morning was how the wind had dropped quite dramatically at nine o'clock then returned just as strong by ten o'clock.

After a late breakfast I repaired the damaged fencing, tidied up the garden, sorted out some tackle then made up some fresh cheese paste. By one o'clock I was ready to go fishing. Arriving at Silsden I quickly realised that I wouldn't be fishing the river Aire today. No way could I reach the river bank, the fields were flooded, some riverside roads were impassable. I then went off to Morrisons supermarket, purchasing several loaves of bread and a couple of pounds of Danish blue cheese for bait making. With no fishing on the Aire I headed back to the river Ribble. Checking the gauge at Grindleton it gave a reading of six feet. I decided to fish the river further downstream on the Prince Albert AS water at Dinkley.

Tackle was an Avon rod, centre pin reel, 6lb line and a size 6 hook tied direct to the line. I needed three LG shot to fish my chosen swim. These were pinched lightly on the line some six inches from the hook. Bait was crust. Within two or three minutes of casting out the tip moved half an inch. The answering strike connected with a nice fish which immediately shot out into the fast water. After a couple of minutes I bullied the fish to the waiting net. I could see immediately that it was stuffed full of food. On the scales it weighed 4-2-0 but normally a fish of this length would have weighed around 3-10-0. It wasn't the biggest or nicest fish but most welcome when conditions were hard and included gale force wind and driving rain. After a quick picture the fish was returned.

Rebaiting with another bit of crust I cast out, dropping the bait another couple of feet further downstream from where the first fish was hooked. I fished on for some thirty minutes without a bite then changed over to lobworm, still no success. I then baited with a big chunk of cheese paste, after another half hours fishing I went back to crust, still no bites. With the wind increasing in strength and the rain lashing down I suggested to Kate. "Shall we call it a day?" She agreed. We quickly packed up, arriving home at dusk. We both felt it was worth all the effort. Several cormorants were out hunting, high fast rivers were no deterrent to these fish catchers, no doubt they were more successful than I was.

Today, Wednesday, the car stopped some three hundred yards from home, battery problems. Being an automatic I couldn't bump start it, but eventually it started of it's own accord. I decided to fish the river Aire. Arriving on the river below Silsden I was surprised to see the river had dropped some three feet overnight. The wind was gale force from the north west and very cold. I also had to put up with snow and hail showers during the day. The river looked good as it flowed quite clear with a water temperature of 42-43 degrees F, ideal for crusting I thought. It was virtually impossible to fish my first three swims in the gale force conditions, on two occasions the rod was blown from the rest. After an hour I gave up the struggle then moved off to some more sheltered swims, still no bites. I decided to move off further up river.

At Kildwick, after looking at the river I decided on Keighley as there were several sheltered swims. The car then decided not to start again. After ten minutes of trying I did get it moving and decided I should go home. I was a bit gutted although I hadn't had a bite I was still confident I would get a fish if I had carried on trying. Back home I called the garage and arranged the car to be picked up on Thursday morning. No fish or bites but I did see a lot of Curlews and Green plover along with Robins, Grey, Yellow and Pied wagtails. A few dark olives were also hatching off which the wagtails eagerly grabbed.

Thursday the weather was lousy with snow and sleet showers being forecast and some heavy falls of snow likely. I decided it wasn't worth the effort of going to the river then get stuck in the snow. It was time to get some badly needed jobs sorted out. With only a couple of weeks of coarse fishing left I would want all my spare time fishing various rivers up and down the country in the hope of catching my 25th five pound plus chub and perhaps a double figure barbel. My first job was sorting through a few dozen slides for a couple of angling and travel features. With the garden snow covered I spent some time scraping away this white stuff so the birds could find the seeds, especially Blackbirds and Robins.

We have a new trout season starting on our rivers in a few weeks time. In Lancashire it's 15th March, Yorkshire 25th March but for most of the country it's April 1st. It's now the time to sort out all your fly fishing gear if you haven't already done so. Check the backing on your fly reels. If it's in poor condition replace it. Fly lines should be washed and cleaned, if you haven't already done so. At the end of last season my fly lines were washed then polished with Cortland XL fly line dressing and cleaner; the cleaned lines in large loops were then hung up in my tackle cupboard. Rod guides should be checked for cracks and grooves, especially the stripping and tip guides. Jackets, fly vests tackle bags and waders need cleaning. The former should also be checked for leaks. Go through your fly boxes checking all your flies for rust, damaged hook points, bits of nylon in the hook eyes and other damage. Spare leaders and other accessories should be checked and discard anything that's not in perfect condition.

As from April the 1st you will need to purchase a new Environment Agency rod licence available from your local post office. Don't forget this important document otherwise it could be a costly experience if you get caught without the EA rod licence. Make sure your club and syndicate membership cards are up to date. Read the rules. Often a new rule will appear that was passed at the last Annual General Meeting which most members fail to attend. Over the next few weekends, why not visit your favourite trout stream and clear away some of the rubbish that has been left behind during the winter floods. You will find the river has probably changed quite dramatically and beware of under cut banks. Finally congratulation to Tony Miles of Binley Woods Coventry and Neil McIvor of Preston Lancashire who has a furniture shop in the town for catching personal best barbel. Tony's fish weighed in at 19-2-0 and another fish of 18-4-0 from the Great Ouse while Neil's barbel that weighed in at 14-5-0 is a new river record for the river Ribble. Some press statements have given the location of the fish as coming from the upper reaches of the river Ribble. I don't think so, this is all game fishing water with no barbel present.

Any questions please feel free to E-mail me martin@flyfish.demon.net.uk. As from April 1st 2002 my E-mail address will be martin@flyfishing.plus.com have a good weeks fishing

Kind regards, Martin James